Whole Foods' Mackey Strikes Again

Whole Foods Market's (Nasdaq: WFMI  ) CEO John Mackey has unleashed his opinion once again.

In the online pages of The Huffington Post, Mackey's editorial, "Creating a High-Trust Organization," reinforces many of his traditional sentiments on conscious capitalism.

The essay expresses his lofty ideals about organizations striving for The Good, The True, The Beautiful, and The Heroic, as exemplified by companies such as Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV  ) , Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) . Those concepts, which he also discussed here at Fool HQ last summer, aren't exactly news to those who have been following Mackey, but they may be a new way of thinking to some of HuffPo's readership.

"American society appears to be undergoing a crisis in trust," Mackey's new editorial begins. No kidding! He continues:

Indeed, I do not believe it is an exaggeration to claim that our society is actually undergoing a disintegration process whereby the fundamental premises and values supporting our institutions are all being called into question. While such disintegration is of course very painful to experience, it is also a tremendous opportunity for genuine transformation.

From there, Mackey launches into his discussion on organizational ideals and the importance of transparency and real communications.

Longtime Whole Foods shareholders are probably used to Mackey's philosophizing. He has very strong opinions on disparate and often surprising topics, and his views defy easy categorization. After all, he has expressed both a dislike for unions and a strong love of plant-based diets, two enthusiasms infrequently found in the same individual.

The powder keg of public opinion
Mackey's previous stab at editorializing, a piece on health-care reform in News Corp.'s (Nasdaq: NWS  ) Wall Street Journal, provoked explosive reactions from some of his supporters. There, Mackey opened with a Margaret Thatcher quote about socialism and running out of other people's money, which may have driven left-leaning readers straight into an apoplectic fit before they even bothered to read the rest of the piece.

While it may be a generalization, it's safe to say that much of The Huffington Post's readership is liberal, while much of the WSJ's readership is conservative. It appears that Mackey's reaching out to both sides to find some common ground (and perhaps to show that capitalism's not so evil as it's often painted to be).

Opinionated CEOs can add an element of risk for their companies' shareholders, but I agree with Mackey that authentic and transparent communication helps foster trust. I also think thoughtfulness and discussion in any public forum are too rare these days. At the very least, Mackey seems earnest in his attempts to be thought-provoking.

If Mackey's new piece once again manages to incite readers' ire, Whole Foods stock could become more risky than one might think. However, if he gets more people thinking and discussing ways to change our society for the better, well, that sounds like a pretty good dividend to me.

What do you think of Mackey's latest stance, or CEO idealism in general? Philosophize in the comments boxes below.   

Apple, Amazon.com, and Whole Foods Market are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Google is a Rule Breakers choice. Try any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods Market. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On March 24, 2010, at 1:22 PM, bicycle4me wrote:

    I dread Mackey going public with his opinion; at least he is doing it with his own name. I became a WFMI owner prior to Mackey's rants about Wild Oats using a pseudo-name. Between that and the Wild Oats purchase, WFMI is still under water for me.

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